Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sanctification: Daily Prayer Habits

"Pray always and do not lose heart" (Luke 18:1).

I am writing this as a follow up to the piece on Spiritual Weapons & Tactics. It occurred to me through our discussions at the St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers that the previous article merely scratched the surface of what we need to do to answer the “universal call to holiness.”

It seems to me that many of us feel the internal drive to be closer to our Lord, but we don’t seem to know how; we don’t have a game plan. We often succeed at setting and meeting career goals or implementing a physical fitness plan (I can’t say I’ve done that yet.) When it comes to our relationship with God, we become paralyzed, mystified and frustrated with the struggle to incorporate a daily prayer life. The following is a suggested strategy to begin a life of daily prayer.

Before I begin this discussion, allow to me to offer a few reflections about the process. Do not enter this with haste. It is not a crash course. I’m reminded of Stephen Covey’s lesson on the Law of the Farm. You can’t cram on the farm; you can’t get up one morning and expect to harvest the crop when you haven’t taken the time and patience to work the soil, fertilize, remove the weeds and pests, etc. Haste gives birth to frustration and failure. Remember God wants you to succeed at your pace and His. Before you begin to implement these changes in your life pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for His help in fortifying you in your resolve to take this process seriously. We can’t take a sporadic approach to this; we must commit to making it our daily priority. After all we are ultimately talking about the very salvation of our souls. Pray for each other’s resolve. Finally, we must remember that this is not a zero sum game in which we lose time by practicing these habits of prayer. Instead we must view them as investments that will pay dividends in the after life.

In all honesty, I struggle to do this daily. Some days I do better than others. It would be easy to simply give up; that’s what Satan wants us to do. We must persevere. I will list out the daily habits first and then discuss each individually in depth, each in a separate article.

1. Make a Morning offering
2. Pray at least fifteen minutes of mental prayer
3. Spiritual reading (New Testament and a spiritual book suggested to you by your spiritual advisor),
4. Pray the Holy Rosary,
5. Attend daily Holy Mass and Communion,
6. Recite the Angelus at noon
7. Incorporate ejaculatory prayer in your day
8. Make a brief examination of conscience at night.

MORNING OFFERING: Kneel down and using your own words, or a formula, you briefly offer up all the day ahead for God's glory. On a good day, I immediately begin the morning at 5:30 AM by dropping to my knees on the side of my bed and consecrating myself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

St. José Maria said, “Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a fixed time, without yielding a single minute to laziness. If, with God's help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. It's so discouraging to find oneself beaten at the first skirmish!” (The Way, 191)

If we are to follow this saintly advice, then we are NOT to hit the good ole snooze button. I recommend getting up thirty minutes earlier than you normally need. This extra time will come in handy when we begin our mental prayer and spiritual reading. I begin each morning with my own variation of the Daily Offering Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I consecrate myself to Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In so doing, I offer everything I am and everything I do to their intention, especially, the repose of souls in purgatory, the reparation of sinners, the unification of the church, an end to abortion, an increase call to Holy Orders and vocations, the sanctity and fidelity of all your clergy and for those intentions of Pope Benedict XVI and all your bishops.” You may choose to come up with your own prayer or use one of the many daily offering prayers constructed by the saints. Below I have listed some morning offering prayers:

Fatima Morning Offering - O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings, all that this day may bring, be they good or bad: for the love of God, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for all the sins committed against the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Holy Trinity Morning Offering - Most Holy and Adorable Trinity, one God in three Persons, I firmly believe that You are here present; I adore You with the most profound humility; I praise You and give You thanks with all my heart for the favors You have bestowed on me. Your Goodness has brought me safely to the beginning of this day. Behold, O Lord, I offer You my whole being and in particular all my thoughts, words and actions, together with such crosses and contradictions as I may meet with in the course of this day. Give them, O Lord, Your blessing; may Your divine Love animate them and may they tend to the greater honor and glory of Your Sovereign Majesty. Amen.

Morning Offering to the Sacred Heart - O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates, and in particular for the intentions of our Holy Father for this month.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Brown Scapular Morning Prayer - O my God, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary (here kiss the Brown Scapular), I offer Thee the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, joining with it my every thought, word and action of this day. O my Jesus, I desire today to gain every indulgence and merit I can, and I offer them, together with myself, to Mary Immaculate, that she may best apply them to the interests of Thy Most Sacred Heart. Precious Blood of Jesus, save us! Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us! Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us! Amen.

A Short Prayer - Lord help me to remember that nothing is going to happen to me today that You and I together can't handle. Amen.

Father John McCloskey says, “In my pastoral experience, those who can live the ‘heroic moment’ in the morning and in the evening going to bed on time will have both the physical and spiritual energy throughout the day to stop what they are doing in order to live the other habits.” Begin your next morning by making a morning offering immediately upon awakening.

Tomorrow: Mental Prayer

May the grace of our Lord be with you all. J.M.J <><

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Spiritual Warfare: Weapons & Tactics

In the last meeting of the St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers we discussed the commitment we have to protect our families – physically, financially, emotionally and spiritually. The conversation quickly focused on the Ancient War, the Spiritual Combat we find ourselves engaged in as the Church Militant. As the spiritual leaders of our families, we are at the frontline of this battle. What can we do to arm ourselves against the devil and his minions? I was reviewing my notes from a conference I attended last year in which Father John Corapi, SOLT, spoke on this very issues. Here are his suggested tactics and weapons to combat satan:

1. Get straight & get right with God!
2. You can be holier.
3. Nurture your relationship with Him.
4. Learn your faith. “Studying the faith is studying Jesus Christ.”
5. Pray to your Guardian Angel for protection and help.
6. Pray the Rosary – “the greatest weapon;” “prayer of the Gospel. When you pray the rosary, you pray the Gospel, the Good News, the Word made Flesh, who is Jesus”
7. Receive the Sacraments frequently

a. Frequent Communion (i.e., daily mass)
b. More frequent Reconciliation
8. Use the Sacramentals
a.Holy Water
b. Brown Scapular – like “dog tags” it identifies us as children of Mary, the Mother of God; we reflect on prayer & penance; you may grasp it to overcome the temptation

This of course is not an exhaustive list of weapons and tactics. These are simply part of "basic training" guidelines. Perhaps in a later blog I will discuss the tactics & weapons of Special Forces in Spititual Warfare.

For now, may the Lord bless you and your family and fill you with the grace necessary to do His will.

J.M.J. <><